From foster parents to God parents: How I made sense of losing Landen

When a foster parent gets handed a newborn baby straight from the hospital, you tend to get attached. I saw an adoption in our future, but that wasn’t to be.

Landen along with his mom, Priest, and god parents. Photo courtesy of Carissa Tipper

When you come to the end of a road in life with nothing to show for it, it can be painful.

My husband, Daniel, and I came to the end of one of those roads the day we found out we could not have children. My husband has a genetic disorder called Y-Chromosome Microdeletion. This means he is missing a piece of the Y-Chromosome, which results in a zero-sperm count. We were shattered beyond belief that we would never have our own biological children, but we quickly moved onto adoption. There were plenty of children out there that needed families and because we were so eager to have a child quickly we chose foster care as our route to parenthood.

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Within a couple of months our state placed us with a red headed, blue eyed newborn baby boy named Landen. He was perfect! Love came instantly and we treated him like our own. The longer he was with us the more hopeful we became that we would get to adopt him, but right before he came upon his 2nd birthday the judge ruled for him to be returned to his birth mother. As foster parents, we are supposed to hope that parents are reunited with their children and I knew foster care is meant to be temporary but when you suffer from infertility and they hand you a newborn baby straight from the hospital you tend to get attached. It was very difficult to let go because we had him for so long. Landen’s birth mother promised to keep us in his life, and we were skeptical but grateful.

I could keep my heart open and help Landen … or I could turn my back to avoid the risk of getting hurt.”

After Landen left we took in two more children that were placed in foster care in an attempt to fill the void in our home. A 5-year-old sneaky boy with a rat tail and a beautiful Hispanic newborn baby girl. They certainly did divert our attention for a while, but in time they went back to their biological parents as well. As it shall be. Landen’s mother kept her word and kept us in his life, but I was shattered that I lost all three kids that I cared for. I had seen several foster families adopt their foster children so I just assumed that we would get to adopt a child eventually. I should have never thought that way; I should have been more supportive of the children being returned to their biological parents.

I often wondered what my purpose was here on this earth. I have heard so many wonderful testimonies in my life but I wanted my own. I have had so much devastation and loss. Although I accepted God’s Will, I was lacking patience for His timing. I wanted my purpose, my testimony right then to deaden my pain. I remember reading a quote by Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa) that said, “If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one.” I meditated on this quote and gave thought to it as it pertained to my own situation. I could keep my heart open and help Landen through his life with his birth mother or I could turn my back at the risk of getting hurt.

So I made Mother Teresa’s words my own, “If you can’t help 100 children, then help just one.” That is what I did. I took the risk and Landen is now 4 years old, happy and healthy with his entire family, including us. He still lives with his mother but I see him at least three times a week, and he often vacations with us. His mother and I even work out a way to share him during the holidays.

Landen being baptized at Our Lady of the Shoals Catholic Church. Photo courtesy of Carissa Tipper

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Landen has been going to Mass with us since he was born. I remember trying to tote him up to the front of the church to take communion. Although not always an easy task, I was so happy to have him coming to Mass with us every Sunday. When he was about three years old he told me in Mass that one day he was going to take communion. My heart broke for him because I knew he could never receive Jesus at Holy Communion because he was never baptized into the Catholic church. Landen’s mother has said before that she thought of us as his godparents, so I asked her to make it official, have him baptized and let us oversee his religious upbringing. She happily agreed and on October 10th, 2016 Landen received the gift of the Holy Spirit and became a member of Our Lady of the Shoals Catholic Church.

I received my testimony that day as well. My purpose was to be a foster parent to Landen during his time of need and to lead him to the Catholic church, and now God has chosen my husband and I to be his spiritual leaders. I could not ask for a better testimony than that.

Starla Hester
Starla Hester
Starla is a freelance writer living in Alabama with her husband. She is a member and CCD teacher at Our Lady of the Shoals Catholic Church in Tuscumbia, where she recently became a godparent to her ex-foster son. She has several publications on religion, farm life and her personal struggles with infertility

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